Kenya’s Chief Justice David Maraga has asked President Uhuru Kenyatta to dissolve parliament because it does not have enough female MPs.
In a letter to Kenyatta, the chief justice said the failure to have more female MPs was in breach of the constitution, and tantamount to discrimination against women.
The constitution states that one gender group cannot occupy more than two-thirds of parliamentary seats. However, women hold far fewer than the mandatory 116 seats in the 350-member parliament.
Several human rights groups, lawmakers and the Law Society of Kenya had earlier petitioned the CJ, arguing that Parliament had deliberately refused to enact the two-thirds gender law.
Parliament had either failed or neglected to enact legislation required to implement the gender rule, despite four court orders to do so, the chief justice pronounced himself on the stalemate, adding that the dissolution of Parliament, irrespective of the consequences, is the radical remedy that Kenyans desired in order for the political elites to adhere to and fully operationalize the transformational agenda of the Constitution.
“There is no doubt the dissolution of Parliament will cause inconvenience and even economic hardship. The fact that Kenya is in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic only exacerbates the potential impact of the decision. Yet that is the clear result Kenyans desired for Parliament’s failure to enact legislation they deemed necessary. We must never forget that more often than not, there is no gain without pain,” Maraga said.
“Let us endure pain if only to remind the electorate to hold their parliamentary representatives accountable,” he added.
Parliamentary Speaker Justin Muturi said the dissolution of parliament was an unrealistic option. Muturi said Parliament should not be used as a punching bag, further adding it was ‘unrealistic’ to call for its dissolution for failing to enact the gender law.
“We must not lose sight of the real challenges in implementing this matter and turn Parliament into a punching bag on account of gender parity,” he said in a statement on Monday.
Meanwhile senate minority leader James Orengo applauded Maraga’s call, saying it was a big test to the rule of law and constitutionalism in Kenya.
“CJ Maraga’s advice to the President to dissolve parliament is momentous. Probably the most significant and historic from a constitutional standpoint. How we apply foundational principles and values of the rule of law and constitutionalism is now the big test,” Orengo said Monday.
Kenya’s new constitution was introduced in 2010, and the two-thirds gender rule should have been enacted within 5 years.